Story Magazine - Third Quarter, 2008
Brothers Jerry and David Hoffman Share Stewarding Gene
by Mary Brown,'91, Associate Director of The Center for Biblical Preaching
The Hoffman family in a 1950 photo. Clockwise from left: Harold, Jerry, Evelyn and David.
When pastors Jerry and David Hoffman talk about their upbringings, they each say, "If you don't have time to worship, you are busier than God ever intended you to be." This motto of their mother's profoundly shaped them into the Christian leaders they have become.
Born and raised on a small farm near Storm Lake, Iowa, the Hoffmans say, "Our parents attended church every Sunday. At our table, the Bible was always there. Devotional books were read and prayers were said at that table every day. And around that same table we talked about current events and what was happening all around us. We learned from the beginning the mutual responsibility we have for one another."
Like most small farms, there was no shortage of work to be done. Both boys were entrusted with a lot of responsibility at an early age, learning to drive a tractor at age 7 and writing checks on the farm account as teenagers. Lessons on the farm became the fertile ground that God used to prepare each of the Hoffmans for pastoral ministry.
It was on the farm that Jerry began "preaching to the weeds." Even as a confirmation student, he already sensed the Holy Spirit leading him toward pastoral ministry. After graduating from Augustana Seminary in Rock Island, Ill., Jerry served parishes in Louisville, Ky., and Michigan City, Ind., before becoming an assistant to the bishop for the Indiana-Kentucky Synod of the Lutheran Church in America. He took a call as senior pastor at Nativity Lutheran Church in St. Anthony Village, Minn., and served there for more than 20 years, retiring in 1999.
In 2007, Jerry became the director of Luther Seminary's Center for Stewardship Leaders. Its mission is to equip stewardship leaders for Christian communities. The Center encourages the integration of stewardship education throughout the seminary curriculum while providing focused financial stewardship courses. Extra-curricular opportunities assist students in their expression of faithful stewardship through personal financial management, including the volunteer services of personal financial stewardship coaches. The Center promotes continuing stewardship education for church leaders. Resources are posted online and a weekly newsletter is sent to more than 2,600 subscribers via e-mail.
It wasn't until David was a student at the University of Iowa that his mentor, Dr. George Forell, perceived the gifts David had for church leadership and encouraged him to "give seminary a try." David enrolled at Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and after graduation served parishes in upstate New York before becoming senior pastor of St. Philip the Deacon in Plymouth, Minn. Under his leadership, St. Philip the Deacon has grown to a congregation of more than 4,600 members, with an annual budget of $3,200,000. Of that, $650,000 is set aside to support mission work around the world.
Vein of stewardship
Both brothers share a passion for the ministry of stewardship. "Stewardship is a way to say thank you to God for all God has given to us," David says. "One of the challenges in human nature is to say, 'It's all mine.' The ministry of the pastor is to (help your people) expand their vision for sharing all God has given to them."
Jerry agrees. "Most of the time when money is talked about within the life of the church, it's for survival. However, we need to integrate the topic of money with all aspects of people's lives. It's not even just about giving 10 percent. God has given us 100 percent of what we have. Faithful stewardship is about the way we live our whole lives."
When discussing the topic of money, the concern in Jerry's voice is clear. "Money enslaves so many," he says. "Many in our congregations are just two paychecks away from losing it all because they live right up to the financial edge. But Christian stewardship can set us free from all of that."
Pastors Jerry and David Hoffman today.
Leading by example
"One of the things my staff learns is you cannot ask others for a gift if you are not giving yourself," David says.
Pastors also need to learn how to ask others to give. At David's first parish, he went to visit a dying woman. He didn't know her well; he had been in the church less than a year, when she asked, "Pastor, what is the mortgage on the building?" When he told her it was $600,000, she said, "I would have gladly given that but they never asked." She died the next day. David decided he never again wanted a gift to the church to go unrealized.
In describing the significant growth of St. Philip the Deacon, David credits church leaders for reminding members of how their gifts make a difference. The congregants have generously supported seven capital appeals during David's tenure. While a portion of each campaign has been used for "bricks, mortar and mortgage" at the Plymouth location, there has been a significant mission component in every one. Recent projects include building a church in Madagascar, a hospital and school in Tanzania, and a dormitory in India.
Stewarding the church
Bishop Craig Johnson of the Minneapolis Area Synod, where the brothers are rostered, says, "Pastors Jerry and David Hoffman have led their respective congregations in an exemplary way. They have been innovative, strategic and have encouraged leadership in their colleagues and staff. They are great examples that good leaders make a difference."
David has been faithful in stewarding the calls of those who serve around him, with three of his executive pastors going on to serve as senior pastors in large congregations.
Chris Nelson, senior pastor of Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, served with David in two congregations for a total of 14 years.
"There is no one else like David in the church," remarks Nelson. "He is one of the most personally secure pastors I know. He taught me that when another staff person shines, we all shine."
Pastor John Hogenson, '87, recently moved from an executive pastor role at St. Philip the Deacon to a lead pastor position at St. Andrew's Lutheran Church in Mahtomedi, Minn.
"I wouldn't be here today without David's influence in my life," Hogenson says. "I learned from him what it meant to be a generous leader. It was also David who taught me how to make good and right decisions for the whole."
Though sad to see staff members like Hogenson and Nelson leave, the congregation at St. Philip the Deacon views it as a way to offer critical support to the church at large, where senior pastor vacancies are increasing.
"Stewardship and evangelism go hand-in-hand," David says. "Faithful stewardship is contagious. We are here to take hold of all the things God has given to us and rejoice in every one of them."
Learn more about Luther Seminary's Center for Stewardship Leaders!
The mission of the Center for Stewardship Leaders is to develop the capacities of Luther Seminary to equip stewardship leaders for Christian communities. The center offers:
- Financial stewardship courses.
- Ways for students to express faithful stewardship through personal financial management.
- Continuing stewardship education for church leaders.
The center promotes and teaches stewardship through its Web site, www.luthersem.edu/stewardship.
The site provides:
- Free subscriptions to Stewardship for the 21st Century, a weekly e-mail newsletter.
- Valuable resources including articles, videos, Bible studies, book reviews and sermons.
- Support and encouragement for parish pastors and congregations. Jerry Hoffman serves as the director of the Center for Stewardship Leaders.